What Edmund Burke did not say

Edmund Burke

A letter to the editor of British daily The Morning Star, by Robert Wilkinson:

Behind Burke quote on good and evil

Tuesday 02 March 2010

Your editorial (M Star February 26) is at fault in attributing the quotation “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” to Edmund Burke.

This is certainly the most misquoted saying of Burke but no evidence of him saying the actual words exists in his works or records of his speeches.

The quotation in fact occurs in Sergei Bondarchuk‘s film adaptation of Tolstoy‘s War And Peace.

As far as Burke himself is concerned, perhaps Karl Marx may have best identified the man’s position on the subject of liberty (and the liberty of the subject).

“The sycophant – who in the pay of the English oligarchy played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolution just as, in the pay of the North American colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the liberal against the English oligarchy – was an out-and-out vulgar bourgeois,” Marx stated.

See also here.

Edmund Burke and American Conservatism. James Kwak, Baseline Scenario: “The conservative movement in America is what it is; whether Edmund Burke would have blessed it or not is not going to change the number of signatories to the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. But Robin’s book should make people skeptical of the occasional claim that there is some ‘good conservatism’ represented by, say, George Will, and some ‘bad conservatism’ represented by, say, Sarah Palin”: here.

7 thoughts on “What Edmund Burke did not say

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